In Conversation with Julie Goodwin

Who or what influenced your relationship with fashion?

I think I just always realized the transformative power of clothes.

As a child I had a very immersive imagination. I could completely loose myself in a book I was reading, and in the same way I could be transformed by ‘dress ups’ – and I was always a maker. I made clothes for myself, my friends, even my Nanna!

Where are your products designed and made?

In my Albert Park studio.

Did you study your craft or are you self-taught?

I am self-taught.

Or studio taught in fact. I learned in a studio like those of Dior or Givenchy, but it was my own.

When and why did you launch your own business?

Twenty years ago, I first decided to start my own business with a vague idea that I wanted to help women feel better in their clothes, and as little as I knew back then, I thought it had something to do with fit and proportion.

Battered and bruised by the world of advertising, I also wanted to create a workplace where everyone was valued for what they brought to the creative process. So I hired a team of experts, treated them incredibly well, and started a very expensive apprenticeship.

In my shop and workroom in Bridport Street, I spent many exhilarating, chaotic, stressful, years learning how to run a business, manage staff, listen to clients and fit as though my life depended on it.

In the end, we all learned from each other, and my ‘lets just try it this way’ approach resulted in some unexpected and innovative solutions for fitting the female form.

What does a week in your shoes look like?

I spend one to two days a week teaching design and construction at Fashion Masters in Spring Street. I love it. Helping young designers bring their ideas to life is a challenge, and drives me to keep looking for new ways to make beautiful things.

The rest of the week is sourcing fabrics, consulting with clients, designing, cutting, making – I’m a one-woman show at the moment so every day is different. I also have to tackle the admin side and of course there’s social media. I am lucky that I love what I do so I’m happy to work in one capacity or another (almost) every day.

Explain your brand and products to our readers?

I make timeless garments of the highest quality to order. I create classic, bespoke tailored pieces for women. My focus is on quality of materials, precision of cut and longevity of wear. I also love to work on formal wear and wedding gowns, and usually have one or two on the go.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I’m inspired by the masters; Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and the elegance associated with their era. Women and their lives inspire me. The need for pieces that are tailored and elegant but still show a softness and femininity.

Why are you passionate about local manufacturing?

As a maker and control freak there really is no other way for me.

I love the collaborative environment of a working studio and being able to see and be a part of every stage of a garment’s production.

Explain the process of one of your products (design process/unique crafting skills, special materials etc)?

What I use to create my tailored designs now is a blend of classic men’s tailoring, ‘Chanel’ like methods of construction, corsetry and formalwear techniques and a bit of suck it and see.

It’s always changing, and that’s the beauty of it.

My focus is on the ‘hidden’ areas of a garment – the layers between the outer fabric and the lining – they are the skeleton and muscle that give the garment its structure. I love to make a flat piece of fabric into something that curves and floats over a woman’s frame.

How do you define ethics and how do you apply ethics to your business?

I define ethics as treating people and the planet with the respect they deserve.

I guess my ethics are evident in the quality and integrity of my work. I have a transparent process – I love to explain how every aspect of my craftsmanship unfolds – and I support local suppliers.

How do you define sustainability and how do you apply sustainability to your business?

For me the sustainability question is answered by the longevity of one of my pieces. Garments I produced almost twenty years ago are still going strong in some of my client’s wardrobes. You’re not buying pieces and throwing them away a year or so later, you’re bringing them back to be re-lined or have the buttons changed. And regular clients have the ability to add to their wardrobes year on year in a considered way, so everything they have works together – my garments are built to last. I also work with some very expensive materials and work hard at keeping waste at a minimum!

What challenges do you face as an Australian made business?

The funny thing about being an ethical business is that the biggest challenge is one that I wouldn’t change – to manage to pay artisans the wages they deserve. It was very difficult in the early years for me, and is something I will face again as my business grows after my re-launch.

Business highlights or achievements to date?

Coming back after some time out and feeling like I’ve come home.

Looking at a client in her new piece and knowing that I’m responsible for how good it looks – every time.

Running a fashion business for two decades without going bankrupt!

Why do you love what you do?

I love working with people, getting to know them, understanding their needs and sensitivities. It is a very personal service I offer. But mainly I’m just always happiest when I’m making.

If you could have anyone take home one of your pieces, who would it be and why?

Dame Vivenne Westwood. Because of her deep knowledge of tailoring and ability to break the rules beautifully. Her “buy less, choose well, make it last” ethos and ‘‘you have a more interesting life if you wear impressive clothes’’ attitude make her a woman I would love to meet. For her to take home one of my garments would be the deepest compliment.

Is there anything you’d like our readers to know that you haven’t been asked?

Having a bespoke garment made is an experience most women save for their wedding gown, but it can be a wonderful way to gradually build a wardrobe of pieces that will hold their style, value and beauty for years.

Julie Goodwin Couture

Share it around…